Tiger II – The infamous destruction machine in World War 2, was once the obsession of any powerful army in the world. But this “terminator” could not help Hitler change the situation of World War 2.
As World War II entered its final years, Germany really pushed the boundaries of what could happen in the military world. The country began to develop many formidable weapons and military vehicles, such as the Messerschmitt Me 262 fighter jet. In addition, there are other incredible weapons such as V1 and V2 missiles. But what was most important to Berlin was the upgrade of the armored division. Despite owning the Tiger 1 heavy tank, Germany still wanted to create a more fearsome tank.
To meet the needs of the military, the Henschel & Son company has launched the Tiger II tank, also known as the “King Tiger”. This tank was first put into service in 1944 and served only for 1 year until the end of World War 2 in 1945. Many people think that “King Tiger” was the most optimal development of German tank technology, but it appeared too late so it could not help Berlin overcome this war.
The “King Tiger” was born from the wish of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler to install an 88mm caliber L71 gun on a tank. This gun was even larger than the Tiger I. Hitler asked the two companies that built the Tiger I, Porsche and Henschel, to mount this new gun on an improved version of the Tiger chassis. However, the two companies came up with very different concepts. Porsche presented two versions of the tank: one with a front turret and the other with a rear turret, both using the same petrol-electric drive system as the Tiger I.
Meanwhile, Henschel came up with a completely different idea. The company’s tank will have a tank-like hull but larger than the original Tiger version, and will be covered with angular armor both at the front and at the rear, similar to the Panther tank. It used the same track as the Tiger 1, with two standards, one for use in combat conditions and the other for transport use. Thanks to this design, Henschel won the contract.
The Tiger II entered production in December 1943, with a turret modified from the Krupp corporation turret. The new turret had a simpler structure, although Henschel had previously installed 50 old turrets for 50 Tiger 2s built by this corporation. Tiger II was equipped with an 88mm caliber Kwk 43 L71 gun with very good armor penetration. It also had a TZF-9d viewfinder for very high accuracy.
Due to being born quite late, at a time when Germany began to face many difficulties, the Tiger King was used very limited. It was once expected to be the game-changing trump card. The Tiger II had a similar mission to the Soviet IS-2 tank, which was to destroy enemy tanks from a long range, as well as attract fire to support friendly units.
The King Tiger was first used in the Battle of Normandy in July 1944 and was quickly deployed on the Eastern Front in August 1944. They were deployed most during the Battle of the Ardennes in 1944 – the end of World War 2. About 150 Tiger IIs were deployed in this battle but most suffered losses. This was a huge defeat for Germany, which had only about 500 Tiger IIs at the time.
The first version of the Tiger II lacked reliability, but after the designer modified the tank’s seals and drive train components, its reliability rate increased to 59%, close to that of the Panzer IV with 62%. For a heavy tank, it also proved to be quite agile, making it as good or perhaps better than a lot of Allied and German tanks. The King Tiger’s armor was incredibly effective, and there is no known instance of the front armor on a King Tiger ever being penetrated. But its time in service was very short-lived.
At a time when Germany probably needed simple, effective, fighting machines, the King Tiger was not that. They were complex to build, hence the low production numbers, and late in the war Germany was struggling to find fuel for its aircraft, tanks, trucks, virtually everything. The unreliability issues the King Tiger had early in service weren’t ideal either, meaning attention was diverted from building more of them. It was for those reasons that the King Tiger wasn’t able to turn the war around for Germany. But nonetheless, this was still an impressive weapon, and if it were to be produced in large numbers it would certainly give the Allies a headache at the end of World War 2.